There’s a lot to remark upon in The Darkest Minds. It’s a story of a society broken down by fear of children and a group of young survivors negotiating their own development and making their way towards liberation. It is representationally interesting, the central character a young black girl through whose eyes the film is filtered.
Depictions of children being rounded up into concentration camps disturbingly echoes the actions of ICE under the Trump administration, not to mention countless other examples of segregation and incarceration of peoples throughout history. The central theme of a young woman making herself invisible in order to satisfy others and smooth her path through life is worked through intelligently and tragically.
It’s visually uninspiring, and lacks charm and flair, but The Darkest Minds is an interesting and heartfelt teen movie for an increasingly enlightened young audience.
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I didn’t think much of this when I first saw it and seeing it again on DVD leaves an even worse impression. The only thing that’s still fresh and interesting is Jennifer Lawrence. The rest is very clunky and already rather cheap-looking. Even having District 12 look like a photo of the Great Depression and having the place where all the rich people live look like Berlin circa 1936, à la Leni Riefenstahl, is too obvious, too uninteresting; and the Marie Antoniette haircuts and so on — I understand the rationale but it’s over-emphatic and inelegant: does even the makeup have to be slathered on to make these people ugly? The film doesn’t have the same kind of sympathy for these characters that the novel had and that the film will have to earn in the sequels. Nobody and nothing is really good or sharp. I particularly disliked Stanley Tucci, who keeps playing fey cultural deviants in one smug note, one that would kiss itself with glee were it able to pop in from another dimension … and yet, the film was one of the most popular of its year. But was it loved? I doubt it.